The flowers are blooming, the days are longer, and temperatures are warming up. With Spring officially upon us, many people are getting ready to fix up their landscaping.
If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while since you last did a landscaping project. Most homeowners change their landscaping every 10-15 years, and with the passing of time comes the changing of trends. With landscaping, what was hot a decade ago may not be today. To help keep you up to date, here are the top 5 landscaping trends we’ve noticed around San Luis Obispo.
1. Low Maintenance
Who doesn’t want to have a landscape minus all the hassle and upkeep? Instead of laboring in the yard all weekend or paying a maintenance company for weekly visits, low-maintenance landscapes allow homeowners to have a beautiful garden space with less work.
How is it done? It all starts with smart design choices. Here are a few very simple guidelines you can use to ease the work load:
- Choose plants that are climate appropriate and use proper plant spacing. By selecting plants that grow well in your area and not overcrowding them, they will need far less watering, fertilizers, and pruning.
- Loose the lawn. Lawns take a lot of work, plus they aren’t very environmentally friendly. Think about all the fossil fuels, emissions, fertilizers, and water that it takes to keep a lawn lush and green. If you still want an open space for kids and pets to play, opt for a low water & low-maintenance alternative to traditional lawns such as Sedge or Bent grass.
- Make your soil healthy by using compost and mulch. The addition of organic matter into the soil will help increase the amount of beneficial microbes in the root zone. This will make your plants hardier, healthier, and more resistant to disease.
- Keep weeds away by planning ahead. If left unchecked, weeds can quickly get out of control. The two best things you can do to manage weeds are using a thick layer of mulch and pulling the weeds as they come up. A 3” layer of mulch will keep out the majority of weeds by depriving them of sunlight and an easy route to the surface. The weeds that do make it through should be quickly pulled before they can spread. In contrast to spraying Glyphosate or using weed fabric, which can work well in the short term but have a multitude of negative long term ramifications, this method of weed control is both easy and sustainable.
Low maintenance landscaping lets homeowners save time and money, while still enjoying a beautiful outdoor space. No wonder it’s so popular!
2. Permeable Hardscapes
As people have become more aware of the impact that our cities are having on surrounding ecosystems, environmentally friendly solutions to these issues have become more popular. Such is the case with permeable hardscapes. In contrast to impervious hardscapes – such as concrete or mortared patios, walkways, and driveways – permeable hardscapes allow rainwater to soak through the surface into the ground. This is important for two main reasons, it reduces pollution and it saves water.
In between rains, outdoor surfaces accumulate pollutants such as oils, pesticides, fertilizers, sediments, and animal waste. These pollutants are flushed off the surface when it rains, and in most cases the run-off is directed towards a storm drain, which empties this polluted run-off into our waterways and the ocean. This influx of pollutants disrupts aquatic and riparian ecosystems.
Permeable hardscapes help to solve this problem. They are designed and built to keep rainwater out of the storm drains. When it rains on a permeable patio, walkway, or driveway, the water flows through the hardscape and into the ground, where soil particles and microorganisms can naturally filter the pollutants.
This system has a secondary benefit of allowing more rainwater to be absorbed by the soil, therefore reducing nearby plant irrigation needs and helping to recharge our groundwater basins.
Permeable hardscapes can be built with a variety of materials such as pavers, flagstone, decomposed granite, and even permeable concrete. With an ever-increasing strain on our environment and so many permeable options available, making your patio, walkway, or driveway permeable is a smart and easy choice.
3. Rain Gardens
Rain gardens are popular for many of the same reasons as permeable hardscaping. They are a wonderful way to make your property more ecologically friendly. Plus, they will save you money on your water bill!
Like permeable hardscapes, rain gardens function as a way to decrease stormwater pollution while providing your plants with extra water. A rain garden is a landscape or section of a landscape that has been shaped to slow, spread, and sink rainwater that is diverted into the garden from a downspout or other drain.
This diverted rainwater flows into the rain garden and soaks into the soil, providing nearby plants with far more water than they would otherwise have received during the rain storm. For example, if a downspout from a 1,000 square foot roof is diverted into the landscape, every 1 inch of rain will result in the landscape receiving over 600 extra gallons of water. That equates to thousands or even tens of thousands of gallons of extra water during the wet season. Imagine how that will affect the plants during the dry season. Imagine how much better they will be able to cope with drought. Imagine how much less you’ll have to water them.
Rain gardens come in all shapes and sizes, but typically involve swales and berms, or a dry creek bed. These features can add shape and dimension to the landscape, as well as serving as a lovely central focal point. These benefits in addition to the environmental advantages have made rain gardens increasingly popular in the San Luis Obispo area.
4. Native Plants
California native plants are unsurprisingly much desired for their ability to thrive without much maintenance or water. They are perfectly adapted to our climate, soils, and beneficial native fauna, therefore making them perfectly adapted for your landscaping. Sounds perfect, right?
Actually it is. What’s better is that we are lucky enough to have an abundance of native plants to choose from. Native grasses, shrubs, herbs, and trees of all sizes, shapes, colors, and textures are found in the wildlands of California, and they are available in nurseries to use in your landscaping. They are beautiful and diverse which means that they can be used to match a variety of styles and tastes.
Native plants are especially loved for their low water requirements even in summer. In the San Luis Obispo area, we get most of our rain during the winter months. This means the plants that are native to our area are adapted to this precipitation cycle and can survive our long dry season without trouble. This adaptation pairs perfectly with rain gardens, since the extra rainwater that is diverted into the garden throughout the rainy season will help give native plants the water they need to thrive all summer long.
In addition to being water efficient, natives attract beneficial species of native fauna such as butterflies and hummingbirds. This inclusion of habitat within our neighborhoods is a great way to support a diverse ecosystem. Plus, who doesn’t want a yard filled with hummingbirds and butterflies?
5. Lawns are out
After years of severe drought on the Central Coast, green lawns lost much of their former appeal. Sure it’s nice to have an open grassy area, but with rising water prices and a greater awareness of our dry climate, people have turned away from high maintenance, water loving lawns in favor of colorful, diverse landscapes filled with native and climate adapted plants.
At first, many people reluctantly let go of their lawns because it became too money and time intensive to keep them looking nice. Over the years, however, a new aesthetic has emerged for outdoor spaces. People now seek out artisan landscape designers who can use their skills and plant knowledge to create a little slice of nature. A space that reflects the diversity and beauty of the natural world, yet is comfortable and functional for relaxing outdoors or hosting guests.
People have found that by switching out their lawn in favor of this type of landscaping, their property better reflects their style and personality. In contrast to neighborhoods filled with endless rows of turf grass, many Central Coast neighborhoods are now full of interesting and colorful yards that have been customized to match the homeowners needs.
As you move forward with your landscaping project, take the time to really think about what looks good to you and how you want to use your outdoor space. Regardless of the current trends, this is what ultimately matters. To really be satisfied with your landscaping, it must work for your needs and personal style.
With that said, there is good reason for the popularity of the above trends. Most of them seem to have come about from an increasing awareness of environmental issues, years of drought, and an ever-shifting design and aesthetic sense. Combine that with the time and money saving benefits of these trends and it’s no wonder they are so sought after these days.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can implement these ideas into your new landscaping, feel free to give us a call for a free project evaluation. We’d love to hear from you!